Business Series Part 1: Building a Client Base
So, you’ve done it. You’ve graduated from an event and wedding planning school and you’re ready to take the world by storm.
Well, now you go out and find yourself some clients!
How to get started
There are a few elements you’ll need before you score your first client. You’ll need to have an established business with a well laid-out plan of attack, as well as a website, social media presence, pricing strategy, not to mention a killer portfolio.
Getting your name out there
Your first few clients will be the toughest. You need to find someone who believes in your abilities even though you have very little industry experience. But, there are a few things you can do to help get your reputation out there.
Work with a charity
I love this as a wonderful way to build your portfolio. It’s also awesome PR that can really get you noticed. Find a local charity organization and see if you can somehow work together. You can offer to organize a fundraiser for a local animal shelter, a birthday party at a local retirement home, a Christmas hoopla at the local hospice… You get the idea. Be creative, and think outside the box.
Don’t be afraid to promote your efforts, either! Post a few pages on your website about your experience. Blog about it. Throw up photos of your triumphs on your social media accounts. Call up a local news agency and see if you can get a bit of coverage.
Not only will this approach make you feel great AND boost your confidence, but you may just get some paying clients from the event, and the free promotion you get will pay off in the long run.
Host a free “meet & greet”
Hopefully you have a target market in mind, right? If you’re having trouble getting clients, set up an event where you can meet your potential clients face-to-face and talk a little about your services.
People will always show up for free food & drinks. This option might cost you a bit of money but if you do it right, you’ll walk away with some new clients.
Work with the competition
Make sure you get to know other local event planners and that they know all about you. The event planning business is a competitive one, yes, however that doesn’t mean it’s cut-throat. Many event planners develop partnerships where they refer paying clients to one another.
So, get your portfolio together and knock on some doors. Talk to other planners about the type of client you want to attract, and ask them about their target clientele, too. Build up a network of professionals who can send you some business and be positive references for potential clients. In return, offer them the same service: If a potential client comes to you and you don’t believe you’re the right fit, you will refer that client to them. This type of professional relationship can go a long way.
Organize a styled shoot
A styled shoot for an event is a great way to get to know vendors and other industry professionals. Talk to a few local vendors about staging an event. This will give you some awesome portfolio shots and are a great way to show potential clients what you’re capable of.
Become an industry expert
Don’t overlook the value of a good, strong website! Especially when you’re just looking to get a client or two in the door, you should be blogging at least once a week, and preferably more! Establish yourself as an industry expert and ideally as a thought leader! Potential clients will value and respect your knowledge and insight into industry topics.
After you get going
Once you’ve scored your first few clients, the snowball should start rolling.
Event planning is still very much a word-of-mouth business. If you plan a beautiful event, odds are you’ll get additional business from attendees of that event. But don’t be greedy and don’t be too self-promoting.
Send your thank-yous
After the event, be sure to thank your clients for their business and mention that you look forward to working with them again in the future. If a client has a good experience with you planning their wedding, for instance, they may very well hire you again for a birthday or anniversary party. They also might refer your services to friends or family who want a similar wedding.
Get client testimonials
Hopefully your first events went well and clients were satisfied with your work. If they were, ask them for client testimonials that you can use on your website and social media profiles. Studies have shown that consumers trust customer reviews almost 10 times more than they trust brands! So there’s really nothing that beats an authentic, quality review straight from a satisfied customer!
Give a shout out to vendors
Never ignore vendors as a source of new clients. You scratch their back, they’ll scratch yours!
Once the event is over, be sure to publicly send out your accolades to the vendors who helped you pull off the event. Go on their social media pages or their blog and describe the wonderful service they offered and why you would hire them again. Basically, give THEM a client testimonial.
Believe me, they’ll return the kindness by referring business your way.
Troubleshooting: Can’t get any clients?
Have you tried your hardest and still can’t get any clients? There could be something amiss somewhere along the way of your business plan. Let’s have a look.
Is the phone not ringing?
If you’re not receiving any phone calls or inquiries about your services, it’s time to look at your marketing efforts and your website. Over 90% of your clients will look you up online before they decide to make contact. Be sure your website is functional and professional, and that your social media presence is just as professional.
Are you having trouble closing the deal?
Are you having success at booking client consultations, but not so much in getting them to sign that contract? Likely it’s something about you that they aren’t responding to. It’s possible that your personal brand doesn’t resonate with what they’re looking for, which means you’re probably attracting the wrong type of client. You may also be coming off as inexperienced or not confident enough to pull off the event they’re requesting.
If you’re stuck in a rut, consider asking another professional to sit in on a client consultation or two. They can probably help by picking up on what you’re doing wrong.
Are clients haggling over price?
Watch out for this one. If you have clients coming in for consultations but then balking at your prices, make sure you aren’t overcharging but also don’t give in too quickly. Look at what others in the area are charging and make sure you’re within the realm of reason. Don’t lower your prices just to get a client or two. Instead, if your prices are fair, look over your marketing efforts once more. You’re probably targeting the wrong crowd.
So let’s get going!
No one said it would be easy, but what this can be, is great fun! So tell us, how do you plan on landing your first clients? Any other suggestions out there?
If you’re planning a career in Event Planning, QC’s event & wedding planning courses come with our Achieving Business Success series that helps you prepare for your career!